If I had a nickel for every time a person said something like, “I don’t know how you do (workout, eat well, manage time, whatever) it! I’m just not dedicated/patient/ambiguous-moral-adjective enough”. I used to think that way, too. Hell, you’ll still catch me gazing longingly at the Instagram feed of the blogger who seems to document every creative workout and kid-led activity, wondering how I can be more “like that.”
It’s comforting to think that we need to be a certain type of person to live an organized, goal-driven life. We don’t, though. These types of people don’t exist and motivation is a myth. Exercising consistently, eating right, better managing time, working harder, getting up earlier, using organizational systems, and other positive goal behaviors isn’t the domain of the “good” people. Many, many, CEO’s profess to the habits I listed. You know how many CEOs are pieces of shit? I bet you’re a way better person than most CEOs.
Ordinary people need only flex certain cognitive “muscles” through conscious decision-making processes and exercises to create healthy, new habits that support goal completion.
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Mel Robbins Says It Better
That lady pointing at you is Mel Robbins and she is my hero. She is the most booked female speaker in the world, a New York Times best selling author, soon-to-be talk show host, saavy businesswoman, wife, and mother of three. I adore her blunt nature and no-nonsense advice. In a career sense, I hope to follow her trajectory. In other words, when I grow up, I want to be Mel Robbins.
Her prescriptives and methods speak to my soul; I embraced them before I heard her oh-so-succinctly spout them. In this article I’ll espouse principles from her works (most notably the book The 5 Second Rule), her #coffeetalks and other speaking engagements. I highly encourage checking out her books, web site, and TedTalk. She changed my life, swear.
The 5 Second Rule
If you wanna quit reading this article to pick up Robbins’ The 5 Second Rule, I won’t even be mad. While The 5 Second Rule is the most simple (yet effective) life changing habit I have ever encountered, it deserves the book that Mel dedicated to it. To perform The 5 Second rule you simply count down, “5, 4, 3, 2, 1!” and complete the action that you know you must do but aren’t, or know you shouldn’t do but are.
That’s it. I know, I know; you’re scoffing. But counting down activates the pre-frontal cortex, or, the area of our brains in which we make decisions. The choices to get up early to get a head start on the day, to put down that cupcake or the phone, or to stop negative rumination can come down to the decision of making ourselves do it. Or not.
Practicing The 5 Second Rule as often and in as many situations as we can sharpens our decision making skills and will power. There are many, many times when I do not feel like doing what I should do or stopping what I shouldn’t. Yet the more times I count down from five and make myself complete/stop whatever the action is, the easier it gets.
Doing It Anyway
So much of The 5 Second Rule involves #DoingItAnyway. Getting up when I’m tired, cutting up the vegetables while loathing the monotony, exercising when I initially hate it, picking up the phone when I’m dreading a conversation, consciously wrenching myself out of a self-bludgeoning anxiety spiral.
Mel doesn’t advocate bravery, or goodness, or saintly forbearance and patience. That’s because value systems and their inherent judgments have no place in habit forming. Bravery doesn’t mean not being scared. It means being scared and doing it anyway. Fitspo doesn’t mean hopping out of bed every day looking forward to working out. It can mean trudging your bleary ass to the living room and begrudgingly jumping through burpees.
Instituting These Principles
Inertia is a really hard thing to conquer. It’s simply a law of physics:
An object at rest tends to stay at rest.
So, in the beginning, the principles themselves (especially #DoingItAnyway) are a huge part of initial success. Your brain, being at rest, being used to all the old habits that are not aiding in goal completion, will fight you every step of the way at first. Our brains likes being at rest; their quite comfortable, thank you very much.
Therefore, we must use The 5 Second Rule, especially in the beginning when we don’t want to, over and over again. The more The 5 Second Rule and #DoingItAnyway is utilized, the easier it gets. These coping mechanisms must become a habit. And, in the first few weeks, we’ll just have to use blunt, mental force on ourselves.
Like a Bicep
Recent studies have shown that, similar to our physical muscles, will power can be developed. Ever watched True Hollywood Story or any other sensational celebrity tell-all? Then you know that being surrounded by “yes men” leads to an eventual downfall. Without breaks on our behavior, we’ll skate into our oblivion. I know I will. If there’s an inch that can be turned into a mile, I’m all over it.
That’s why we must dedicate time to purposeful denial. This exercise can be used throughout the day, applied to the most commonplace events, to positive and negative coping skills. Looking forward to a special phone call? Delay it five minutes. Want a sweet treat if that phone call turns stressful? Take a three minute breather before going to the kitchen. About to say something in anger? Set a timer for a minute and sit in silence. Increase these intermissions as time goes on.
These are examples of small brain “reps” one can do to increase willpower.
There are other ways to attempt to strengthen our will power muscles. Not to sound like an aesthetic monk, but they involve cold water, denial, denial, denial, and discipline. Again, the good news is, the more these exercises are used, the easier they are to practice.
A mere ten minutes of meditation a day can help the mind focus and follow through on The 5 Second Rule. Studies have found that practices such as mindfullness and mini-denial sharply increased participants will power potential. For example, individuals were asked to self-monitor and correct their posture and speech patterns. After a few weeks, not only were these practices easier to enforce, the discipline cultivated had spread to other areas of their life as well. Other studies encouraged participants to create and enforce self-imposed deadlines. Individuals felt a renewed sense of pride and reported completed goals across the board.
Other researchers reported success with more physical actions and reminders, like completing hand grip exercises to divert the mind when feeling tempted or carrying around a “forbidden” object (like a credit card or food treat) and consciously resisting said object. Whatever the exercise, scientists agree that will power is something that can be cultivated. It’s not just something that the better among us are born with.
Some I Like
Here is where I talk about the cold water. It sounds extreme, but there are several reasons I love taking cold rinses when I shower.
Have you ever read Jitterbug Perfume? There’s a section that describes the healthful properties of being alternatively submersed in hot and cold water. Turns out, science backs that up. So I like running the water cold and hot for the benefits to my skin and lymphatic system. I also like the way cold water seals my hair cuticle and contributes to shinier tresses.
But I appreciate a cold water rinse for the sheer “grit-your-teeth-and-get-through-it” mentality. It becomes a game to see if I can increase my lasting time by a second each shower. I treat delayed gratification in much the same way. It’s fine to want that cookie or to need to veg out to some KUWTK, but can I wait for five minutes? How about fifteen?
Do the Obvious
Are you still not snacking on crap? Good, the lack of preservative, salt, and sugar can only help uncloud your decision making processes. I’m still going strong on that front too, and I can tell a difference.
We know that to function at our best we need to eat right and get enough sleep. Exhaustion can contribute to all kinds of negative decisions. It’s much easier to cut corners when we’re tired. The 5 Second Rule can be used to turn off whatever’s streaming and get to bed.
A New Era
I have never been this mentally strong. My secrets consist of reading or listening to something every day with the goal of strengthening my mind, exercising to strengthen my body, getting up early to accomplish these programs, and drastically reducing the amount of preservatives, animal proteins, salt, and sugar I eat.
I never, ever thought I would be the type of person that would do these things, live this way. It’s safe to suffice that I am not alone in my surprise. But here we are. If I can institute these habits, you can too. Don’t be scared of the type of person you think you have to be to change your life.
That type doesn’t exist. There’s just people like you and me, 5-4-3-2-1-ing our way out of bed every day. There is power in the potential of second-by-second micro-decisions to change our lives.
What’a been the hardest part of Mini Resolution May so far? How did the new goal mapping go? Have you heard of The 5 Second Rule before? Sound off in the comments below! Share this article to remind yourself to do these exercises.
Check out Part 2 of Mini-Resolution May!